The weird and wonderful world of MONA

On a recent trip to Hobart, Leigh Tinkler experienced MONA for the first time where she was blown away by the multi-sensory nature of its exhibits.

Before visiting MONA, Leigh didn’t really know what to expect. Now, she wants to take its founder, David Walsh, out for a beer.

“Visiting MONA was such a well-thought-out experience from start to finish. What I loved most is how it takes you outside your comfort zone and engages all your senses. David Walsh is a risk-taker. He doesn’t care what people think, he even takes risks with words and signage – he’s obviously very comfortable in his own skin,” she says.

From the museum’s signage – with slogans like please keep ‘your dirty human bodies out of our vineyard’ – to its more structural artworks, which the museum is built around, MONA is provocative, funny and strange. It has put Hobart on the cultural map, yet still offers free admission to Hobart locals.

David’s raison d’être for building the museum is to “ask what art is, and what makes us look and look at it with ceaseless curiosity”. The museum is inspired by the idea that art is useful, in a deep biological sense, and MONA is a place in which to explore it.

“As the colours change, your feelings change, too”

One of Leigh’s favourite experiences included dinner at Faro. It was not just any dinner. Everything about the experience made it so memorable: the music, service, lighting, furniture, food and artist James Turrell’s ‘Event Horizon’ experience. Faro is home to three permanent James Turrell experiences. Beside Myself is an illuminated walkway that leads to Faro. Inside the restaurant, a huge white sphere called ‘Unseen Seen’ dominates the space. ‘Event Horizon’ is a coloured cube-shaped room with changing lights where there is no sense of an edge to the space.

“It’s incredible how the light makes you feel from the moment you step into this completely white space. Then as the colours change your feelings change, too,” explains Leigh.

Many people say that experiencing Turrell’s work is almost like having a religious experience. As one New York Times reporter said: “The rush of blood to my head nearly brought me to my knees.”

Another highlight was staying at the MONA Pavilions. Leigh’s suite was inspired by Australian artist Arthur Boyd, which is part of a museum so vast and complex it’s a bit like being inside a giant rabbit warren.

With hilarious signage, eye-opening art installations and fantastically executed ideas – all enabled by the role of “chance” in David Walsh’s life and expressed in his unconventional manner – Leigh absolutely loved MONA. If you work in the field of experiential graphic design and you haven’t been, wherever you are in the world, go. You won’t be disappointed.